If you are a cycling enthusiast, you may have heard of the term “cadence”. Cadence is the number of revolutions your pedals make per minute as you ride. It is a key measurement that affects your power output, efficiency, and comfort on the bike. But what is the optimal cadence for cycling, and how can you improve it?
In this blog post, we will answer these questions and give you some tips on how to optimize your cadence for indoor and outdoor cycling.
What is the optimal cadence for cycling?
There is no definitive answer to this question, as different cyclists may prefer different cadences depending on their physique, fitness level, riding style, and terrain. However, some general guidelines can help you find your ideal cadence range.
According to BikeRadar, most recreational cyclists pedal at around 60 rpm (revolutions per minute), while fit amateurs may do 80 to 90 rpm. Professional cyclists, on the other hand, often pedal at 100 rpm or more, especially on flat courses or climbs.
This is because a higher cadence shifts the load from your muscles to your cardiovascular system, which can help prevent muscle fatigue and soreness. A higher cadence also allows you to react faster to changes in speed or gradient.
However, pedaling too fast can also have drawbacks. It can cause your pelvis to rock, which reduces your pedaling efficiency and stability. It can also tire you out quickly, as there is an energy cost to just turning your legs. Therefore, you need to find a balance between speed and control when choosing your cadence.
A good way to determine your optimal cadence range is to use a cadence sensor, which is a device that measures how fast you are pedaling and displays it on your bike computer or smartphone. Some bikes have an integrated cadence sensor, while others require an external one that attaches to your crank arm or wheel hub. You can also calculate your cadence manually by counting how many times one knee rises in 30 seconds and doubling that number.
Once you have a way to measure your cadence, you can experiment with different gears and speeds to see what feels comfortable and efficient for you. A general rule of thumb is to aim for a cadence of 80 to 100 rpm for most riding situations and adjust it slightly depending on the terrain and your goals. For example, you may want to lower your cadence slightly on steep climbs or sprints or increase it slightly on descents or recovery rides.
How can you improve cycling cadence?
Improving your cadence cycling technique is not only about pedaling faster but also about pedaling smoother and more consistently. This requires practice and training to develop your muscle memory and coordination. Here are some tips on how to improve your cadence:
Play with cadence
Varying your cadence during your rides can help you improve your adaptability and endurance. You can change gears, speed, or terrain or follow a structured workout that prescribes different cadences for different intervals. For example, you can do high-cadence spin-ups, starting in a light gear and pedalling as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then recovering for a minute at a lower cadence. You can also do low-cadence climbs, using a harder gear and pedalling slowly but forcefully for a few minutes, then switching to a lighter gear and higher cadence for recovery.
Focus on one leg
One way to improve your pedaling technique and smoothness is to isolate one leg at a time. You can do this by unclipping one foot from the pedal and focusing on the clipped-in foot for 2-3 minutes. Try to maintain a steady cadence and avoid bouncing or jerking on the saddle. Then switch legs and repeat. This exercise can help you identify any weaknesses or imbalances in your pedaling stroke and correct them.
Use a metronome
A metronome is a device that produces a regular beat that you can use to synchronize your pedaling rhythm. You can set the metronome to match your desired cadence and follow it as you ride. You can use a physical metronome or an app on your phone or bike computer. This can help you develop a consistent and efficient cadence.
Cadence drills are specific exercises that target certain aspects of your cycling performance. There are many drills that can help you improve your cadence, such as single-leg drills, spin-ups, over-unders, tempo rides, etc. You can find many examples of drills online or ask a coach for guidance. Drills can help you improve your muscle strength, endurance, power, speed, and technique.
The most important thing is to enjoy cycling and have fun with it. Don’t get too obsessed with numbers or metrics, but rather focus on how you feel and what makes you happy. Cycling is a great way to stay fit, healthy, and happy, and improving your cadence can make it even more enjoyable and rewarding.
Cadence training workouts
If you want to take your outdoor or indoor cycling cadence improvement to the next level, you can try some of these cadence training workouts that are designed to challenge and enhance your pedaling skills.
These workouts can be done on an indoor or outdoor bike, but make sure you have a way to measure your cadence and heart rate. Always warm up properly before starting any of these workouts, and cool down afterwards.
This workout aims to increase your power output at a lower cadence, which can help you on steep climbs or sprints. Start with a 15-minute warm-up at a comfortable cadence and intensity. Then do four sets of 5 minutes at a hard effort (Zone 4) with a low cadence of 50-60 rpm. Use a high gear that makes you push hard on the pedals. Recover for 5 minutes between sets at an easy effort (Zone 1-2) with a normal cadence of 80-90 rpm. Finish with a 10-minute cool-down at an easy effort and cadence.
Fluidity and coordination
This workout aims to improve your pedaling smoothness and consistency at a higher cadence, which can help you on flat or rolling terrain. Start with a 15-minute warm-up at a comfortable cadence and intensity. Then do four sets of 5 minutes at a moderate effort (Zone 3) with a high cadence of 100-110 rpm. Use a low gear that allows you to spin fast without bouncing or rocking on the saddle. Recover for 5 minutes between sets at an easy effort (Zone 1-2) with a normal cadence of 80-90 rpm. Finish with a 10-minute cool-down at an easy effort and cadence.
This workout aims to improve your explosive power and speed at a very high cadence, which can help you in short bursts or attacks. Start with a 15-minute warm-up at a comfortable cadence and intensity. Then do eight sets of 30 seconds at a maximal effort (Zone 5-6) with a very high cadence of 120-130 rpm. Use a low gear that allows you to accelerate quickly and maintain a high cadence. Recover for 90 seconds between sets at an easy effort (Zone 1-2) with a normal cadence of 80-90 rpm. Finish with a 10-minute cool-down at an easy effort and cadence.
Spinning RPM Guidelines
If you are doing indoor cycling or spinning classes, you may wonder what are the recommended rpm ranges for different types of rides.
Spinning is based on the principles of outdoor cycling, but it also allows for more variation and creativity in the class format and music selection. Spinning classes typically use different types of rides to simulate different terrains and intensities, such as flat roads, hills, sprints, etc.
The Spinning program bases its RPM guidelines on what real cyclists achieve when riding outdoors. However, these are not strict rules but rather suggestions that can help you find your optimal cadence for each ride type. You should always listen to your body and adjust your resistance and rpm according to your fitness level and goals.
Here are some general spinning rpm guidelines for different types of rides:
This base ride simulates riding on a flat or slightly rolling terrain. The recommended rpm range is between 80 and 110 rpm, depending on the speed and intensity of the ride. You should use enough resistance to feel some tension on the pedals, but not too much that you lose control or bounce on the saddle.
This is the ride that simulates climbing up a steep or long hill. The recommended rpm range is between 60 and 80 rpm, depending on the steepness and length of the hill. You should use enough resistance to feel like you are pushing hard on the pedals but not too much that you lose momentum or strain your knees.
This is the ride that simulates accelerating or attacking in short bursts of speed or power. The recommended rpm range is between 100 and 130 rpm, depending on the length and intensity of the sprint. You should use enough resistance to feel like you are sprinting as fast as you can but not too much that you lose speed or coordination.
Cadence is an important measurement for cycling, as it affects your power output, efficiency, and comfort on the bike.
Finding your optimal cadence range can help you improve your performance and prevent injuries. You can measure your cadence using a sensor or manually and aim for a range of 80 to 100 rpm for most riding situations.
You can also improve your cadence by practicing different exercises and drills that can help you pedal faster, smoother, and more consistently. Remember to have fun and enjoy cycling, as it is a wonderful sport and hobby that can bring you many benefits.
What is the difference between cadence and speed? Cadence is the number of revolutions your pedals make per minute, while speed is the distance you travel per unit of time. Cadence and speed are related but not the same. You can have a high cadence but a low speed, or vice versa, depending on the gear you use and the terrain you ride on. To increase your speed, you need to increase both your cadence and your power output.
How do I measure my power output? Power output is the amount of work you do on the bike, measured in watts. It is a function of how hard you push on the pedals (torque) and how fast you turn them (cadence). Power output is an important metric for cycling performance, as it reflects your energy expenditure and intensity. To measure your power output, you need a power meter, which is a device that attaches to your bike and measures the force and rotation of your pedals or crank. Power meters can be expensive, but they can provide valuable feedback and data for your training and racing.
How do I improve my power output? To improve your power output, you need to train both your muscles and your cardiovascular system. You can do this by following a periodized training plan that includes different types of workouts, such as endurance rides, intervals, hill repeats, sprints, etc. You also need to pay attention to your nutrition, hydration, recovery, and rest. A coach or a training app can help you design and follow a suitable training plan for your goals and abilities.
How do I choose the right gear for my cadence? Choosing the right gear for your cadence depends on several factors, such as your fitness level, riding style, terrain, weather, etc. A general rule of thumb is to choose a gear that allows you to maintain a comfortable and efficient cadence of 80 to 100 rpm for most riding situations. You can use your bike computer or smartphone to display your cadence and gear ratio, and adjust them accordingly. You can also use your perceived exertion and breathing rate as indicators of whether you need to shift gears up or down.
How do I optimize my cadence for indoor cycling? Indoor cycling is a great way to improve your fitness and cadence when you can’t ride outside. However, indoor cycling has some differences from outdoor cycling that you need to consider. For example, indoor cycling usually has less resistance and inertia than outdoor cycling, which means you may need to pedal faster or harder to maintain the same intensity. Indoor cycling also lacks the natural variations in terrain and wind that outdoor cycling offers, which means you may need to create your own variations by changing gears or resistance levels manually or following a preset program. Indoor cycling also requires more attention to hydration and ventilation, as you may sweat more and have less air circulation than outdoor cycling.